Only 19 per cent specialist doctors in India's health centres

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India's elemental healthcare infrastructure seems to be in a `critical condition' with a meagre 19% availability of specialist doctors in the community health centres (CHCs) across the country .According to the statistics released by the Union health ministry on Friday , there is a shortfall of 17,854 medical specialists including surgeons, physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists.

CHCs, which are located in towns and serve as referral centres for patients coming from the primary health centres (PHCs), are vital to improving the country's healthcare landscape. The total number of specialist doctors working at CHCs across the country is 4,186 against the current requirement is of 22,040.

Among the states that face a shortfall of specialists, Uttar Pradesh (shortfall of 2,608 doctors) tops the list followed by Rajasthan (1,787), Tamil Nadu (1,464), West Bengal (1,271), Odisha (1,154), Gujarat (1,140), Madhya Pradesh (1,047) and Maharashtra (935).

The situation in Karnataka is relatively better with the availability of specialists at CHCs at 60.43% against the required strength of 824.

The only place that has reported a surplus of specialist doctors is Chandigarh (UT) with 14 doctors in the CHCs against the requirement of eight.

The shortfall of specialists in CHCs reiterates the cliched argument that private hospitals continue to be more lucrative for doctors.

But the question is who will crack the whip? Union minister of state for health Fagan Singh Kulaste told Lok Sabha on Friday , "Health is a state subject and the primary responsibility to ensure availability of doctors and other health professionals in public health facilities lies with the respective state governments."

But recruiting specialists is not an easy task for the state governments.Speaking on the shortage of specialist doctors recently , Karnataka's health minister K R Ramesh Kumar had said: "Though we have been offering a salary of Rs 1.25 lakh and additional incentives to specialists, not many are coming forward to serve in rural areas"

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